The 14th Dalai Lama often says, "I am just a simple Buddhist monk - no more, no less." His Holiness is anything but that - for on the surface he is the very embodiment of worldly success. All his life, he has been, and continues to be, courted, supported, honored, and promoted globally by Western interest groups.
He commands global attention for two reasons: first he, against China's interests, willingly serves the diverse and complex political and economic interests of the West; second, the novel mystical Tantric spirituality he represents dovetails with the unbearable, deepening religious void of many Western souls.
The 14th Dalai Lama's predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama, sought exile in British India, where he served as an agent for the British against China's central government during the Qing and Kuomintang reign.
His friend and biographer, Sir Charles Bell, a career diplomat of the British Raj, was deeply influenced by the 13th Dalai Lama's spirituality.
Currently, some Westerners use the Dalai Lama to launder their dirty laundry against China and to purify their vacuous souls.
On the other hand, the Dalai Lama needs the West to bring his modified theocracy and his flock back to Tibet and to achieve de facto Tibetan independence, by outmaneuvering the central government in Beijing. The Dalai-West connection is a relationship of mutual back scratching. The Dalai Lama is not "a simple Buddhist monk" after all.
Ironically, despite the Dalai Lama's enormous worldy success, the support of Western interests, the implementation of his so-called Middle-Way policy, and the maintenance by China of an open door posture, the Dalai Lama has yet to secure a "welcome back" invitation from Beijing. Why?
For his embarrassment, the Dalai Lama has a ready answer - China is evil. This evil characterization precisely fits the West's anti-China bent. In his March 10 speech to mark the 50th anniversary of the so-called "failed Tibetan uprising," the Dalai Lama claimed that, for the past 50 years, Beijing has caused Tibetans "untold suffering" and forced them to live in "hell on earth". This is hardly the rhetoric of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, incarnated to save all suffering souls, even the "hated Han Chinese".
A quick listen to the "hell on earth" rhetoric (look, for example, into how, in 25 years, a Tibetan teacher turned a 20,000-yuan unsecured government loan into a 40-million yuan industry: Tibet Dashi Group Co Ltd.) would lead one to conclude that the Dalai Lama has an active imagination predisposed to the drama of negativity.
Or, less charitably, one might say that he simply lies, an unbecoming act for a spiritual leader of his, or any, stature. Interestingly, the resultant spiritual demerit may strip the Dalai Lama of his Bodhisattva status and preclude the incarnation of a 15th Dalai Lama.
Then there is the issue of angry Tibetan youth. Born and raised outside of Tibet and alienated culturally, religiously, and socially, they turn their anger on Beijing and seek absolute Tibetan independence, even if it means violence of the Taliban-type (the violent March 14, 2008 Lhasa incident is a case in point). The Dalai's silence on this matter constitutes tacit approval, so when such violence erupts, he must bear full responsibility.
Why the Dalai Lama fails
Assuming that the Dalai Lama really wants to return to Tibet, what then are the real reasons for his failure to do so? Three reasons spring to mind. First, he is not China oriented. Second, the Dalai Lama does not understand the New China of which he wants to be a part. Third, he is in the service of the West's imperialist and post-imperialist interests against China.
The Dalai Lama's fundamental orientation is the West, not China, as shown by the kind of people he trusts. Two of the Dalai Lama's brothers worked for the CIA. According to ABC News, his older brother, Taktser Rinpoche, a close advisor, was "a Buddhist monk turned CIA translator who helped train Tibetan resistance fighters in a guerrilla war against Chinese rule", perhaps at the CIA's Colorado training grounds (September 6, 2008). Recently, the Dalai Lama's two trusted representatives at talks with Beijing were not even China experts. Lodi Gyari looks after the Dalai Lama's interest in Washington, and Kelsang Gyaltsen oversees operations in Europe.
All Dalai Lama dealings with Beijing have a Western veneer. The lack of a genuine Chinese perspective is the Dalai Lama's fundamental weakness.
Secondly, he does not understand what China, by definition, is about. For example, he does not seem to appreciate the fact that China is a big family made up of many separate but equal ethnicities of varying size and cultural characteristics.
Out of 56 ethnic groups, the five-star Chinese flag can only accommodate the top five, of which the Tibetan ethnicity is one. The others are Han, Mongolian, Manchurian, and Muslim.
China must protect and promote the culture of each of its ethnic groups. For example, China helped 12 minority groups develop written languages and helped five others improve their existing languages. Tibetan culture and language receive the same protection and promotion.
For 150 years China has been fighting imperialism. Notable events include the 1900 Boxer Uprising and the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression. The Dalai Lama should know but he does not seem to remember these fights for survival. In the Seventeen-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet (1951) document signed by the Dalai Lama's representatives, point one states: "The Tibetan People shall be united and drive out imperialist forces from Tibet; that the Tibetan people shall return to the big family of the motherland - the People's Republic of China." As the Dalai Lama's career moves away from what point one requires, how then does he expect to "return to the big family?"
At the March 12, 2009 press meeting, Premier Wen Jiabao again reiterated the central government's open door posture regarding future dialogue with the Dalai Lama. It appears that a meaningful "return to the big family" for the Dalai Lama will depend on whether he accepts point one of the 1951 document.
For the Dalai Lama the door back to China will always be open if he approaches it properly.
The author teaches philosophy in the United States.
(China Daily March 16, 2009)